European Communities (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:11 pm on 20th November 2001.

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Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch Conservative 5:11 pm, 20th November 2001

I am sure that we do not need to rehearse the arguments on qualified majority voting that we had when discussing the previous amendment, but it may be worth putting on the record how the particular example of Euro-creep to which the amendment relates occurs.

When the Treaty of Amsterdam was introduced, the President of the Commission was, in effect, given a veto over the other members of the Commission appointed under him. Until then, the whole Commission had to be approved by the member states. Under Amsterdam, the relevant provision is at Article 214—thoughtfully renumbered by the Brussels bureaucrats to muddle any of us who may have known it as Article 158 under the Treaty of Maastricht and earlier versions of the treaty. Article 214(2) of the Treaty of Amsterdam states:

"The governments of the Member States shall nominate by common accord the person they intend to appoint as President of the Commission; the nomination shall be approved by the European Parliament".

The new provision there was getting the Parliament's agreement, but the President of the Commission was still appointed "by common accord".

We then have one of the real beauties of European drafting—one must say that it is clever. The Amsterdam Treaty continues:

"The governments of the Member States shall, by common accord with the nominee for President, nominate the other persons whom they intend to appoint as Members of the Commission".

So that is how they did it: they slipped in three little words—"by common accord"—that in effect gave the President of the Commission a veto, because no one could be appointed to the Commission without common accord with the president-elect.

We now see the process stalking on an extra step in the Treaty of Nice—as usual, it never goes backwards, always forwards—under which the president himself is to be appointed by qualified majority voting. I support my noble friend's amendment. I do not want to sound monotonous, but the treaty provision is yet another example of the ratchet moving eternally in the same direction.